Story Workshop

Desert Storm - Mohamed's Story

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you

----- From ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling  ------

In 2011, Mohamed, one of our Story workshop participants, was asked to travel from Egypt to Iraq to represent his company in a dispute meeting with a major Iraqi telecommunications company. 

The Iraqi Telco was experiencing serious network failures and the main suppliers, including Mohamed's company, were all pointing the finger at each other.

It was dangerous to travel to Iraq and company security policy required Mohamed to travel by armoured car and dress in full military protective clothing including bullet proof vest.

Alone inside an armoured car en route to Bagdad, Mohamed lifted a bottle of lemonade to his lips to quench his thirst. As the armoured car bounced on the potholed road the lemonade went down his wind pipe and he started to choke.

With the bullet proof vest strapped tightly around his chest, Mohamed panicked. He couldn’t unstrap the bullet proof vest, he couldn’t get the attention of the driver and he couldn’t breathe.

As he fought for breath, Mohamed had a sinking desperate fear that he would die alone inside the armoured car. He even thought to send a text message to his wife with his last few seconds of consciousness.

But eventually he wheezed some shallow breaths and recovered just as the armoured car reached his meeting destination.

Entering a room full of angry, antagonistic suppliers, Mohamed was oblivious to the commotion. He sat calmly and luxuriated in every breath of air, so happy to be alive.

Suddenly accusing voices rounded on Mohamed’s company. It was all his company’s fault!

Wordlessly, Mohamed stood up and went to the whiteboard. The room fell silent. As he sketched the configuration of his company’s technical solution on the whiteboard, Mohamed calmly explained how the network fault could not have been caused by his company’s equipment.


“Ok! So it’s not their fault, it must be …” and the room descended back into acrimonious argument.

Mohamed walked back and sat down next to the local manager who turned to him and exclaimed “how did you do that?!”


Of course it was Mohamed's newfound existential perspective that allowed him to calmly manage that heated situation. 

It's a great story. We could just enjoy it for its perspective and humour but we could also retell it in a similar fractious situation to help gain agreement.

There is no chance of agreement when the opposing sides are highly emotional and it is the role of a sales person to persuasively shift the emotional landscape to a positive one. We call this type of story a 'sales process' story because it can be used to move a sale forward.

Great stories can be re-purposed and it is not necessary that the events happened to you.


Company: Large Telecoms Supply Company


Told in a Growth in Focus Story Workshop 2017

Story Type:



For Story Students

The Setting:

Iraq after the second gulf war

The Complications:

Mohamed nearly choked to death

The Turning Point:

Mohamed recovered and was calm and composed through a vitriolic dispute meeting

The Resolution:

Mohamed resolved the dispute in is company's favour

The Point of the Story:

Perspective makes a difference

How to use this story: This story can be used to calm a situation where disagreements are getting out of hand. It is an example of a sales or business process story. Here is 

another example

 of a personal story that can be re-purposed for a business situation.


How to Re-Purpose a Story

Do you know what it feels like to really help someone but they don't realise you helped?

In our business story workshops, we ask participants to

tell a story about when you helped,

 this is a preparatory exercise to help them construct business success stories (not to be confused with marketing case studies).

Most people tell business stories in this exercise but occasionally there is a memorable personal story:

Nick, a successful marketing manager, told about taking his then three year-old daughter to the beach to teach her to swim in 2011. Nick took her into waist deep murky water and kept her close and firmly in sight as she tried to swim.

Nick felt a brush against his leg and at first thought it was his daughter touching him, but realising that it couldn't have been her, reached down into the water and pulled up a young boy who was drowning on the sandy bottom.

The boy spluttered and recovered as Nick carried him to the beach.

When they reached the beach, the boy's mother came up and exclaimed "oh! There you are!". She took the boy by the hand and led him away before Nick could explain what had happened.

I recently told this story in a discussion with an IT company that was struggling with customer service. Even though the story is not about customer service, the emotions it evokes are universal which makes it a generally useful story if told in the right context,

If you get in the habit of collecting your stories you'll be amazed at how versatile they can be.




Source: Nick Horton personal experience

Story Type:


For Story Students:

The Setting: 2011 beach in NSW

The Complications: Nick discovered a drowning child

The Turning Point: Nick brought the child to the shore but the mother didn't notice

The Resolution: The story is unresolved! which is exactly the feeling it induces

The Point of the Story: Good stories can re-purposed

The Bus

When we practise ''who have I helped' stories in our Growth in Focus story workshops most attendees tell business stories but occasionally a personal story is told which entrances the group.

Here is an example from workshop attendee Warren:

At various times in Warren's life he has taken up running to maintain his fitness.

While still living in South Africa in the late nineties, he determined to get up at six each morning and go for a run.

Part of the route that Warren ran each morning was along a wide but quiet two-lane straight road.

For comfort, he avoided the uneven gravel next to the road and ran on the tarmac edge. Warren ran on the opposite side of the road so that he could see approaching vehicles.

In the distance Warren saw an oncoming bus.

Since the oncoming two lanes were wide and clear, Warren assumed that the bus would move aside to give him space as he ran along the edge of the road.

But the bus did not move aside. Instead it passed so close that Warren was almost hit by the mirror and he was forced onto the gravel to avoid being run over. As the bus passed, Warren angrily turned around and raised his finger to give the driver the "bird".

As he continued running, Warren thought about what had happened and his own reaction.

He thought it likely that the African driver, who had no doubt struggled to make a living through the Apartheid era, resented having to move over for a young white person who could afford the luxury of running on the road for fitness.

Furthermore, Warren reasoned that his own angry reaction would in no way change the driver's attitude.

In an instant Warren resolved to not be that angry person.

The next morning, 6 am, Warren was running down the same stretch of empty road when in the distance appeared the same bus, obviously on a regular route. Warren maintained his position on the side of the road but as the bus approached he smiled and waved to the driver.

Again he was nearly run off the road.

Next morning same thing, Warren smiled and waved and the bus nearly ran him down.

But the next day when Warren smiled and waved there was a slight wave of one hand from the driver, and the bus didn't pass quite so close.

After that Warren and the bus driver would smile and wave to each other each morning and eventually the bus steered so far from Warren that it was almost in the oncoming traffic.


Company: Personal

Source: As told by Warren Nel at a Growth in Focus Story Workshop 2016


Story Type: Values; Personal; Who have we helped

Labels: Values; Beliefs; Control; Personal


For Story Students

The Setting: South Africa when Warren was on one of his fitness kicks

The Complications: The oncoming bus neartly hit Warren

The Turning Point: Warren decided not to be the angry victim, rather to be a smiling friend to the bus driver

The Resolution: Warren and the bus driver became waving and smiling friends on Warren's morning runs

The Point of the Story: Warren and the bus driver became waving and smiling friends on Warren's morning runs

How to use this story: This is a story about personal values and how setting standards for your own behaviour can positively influence others. As Warren says it is about reversing the HAVE --> DO ---> BE sequence

Deciding what you want to BE influences what you DO which in turn leads to what you HAVE